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Textual Harassment

Nicolas Tredell, 7 November 1991

by Christine Brooke-Rose.
Carcanet, 182 pp., £12.95, October 1991, 0 85635 952 1
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The Women’s Hour 
by David Caute.
Paladin, 272 pp., £14.99, September 1991, 0 586 09142 4
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Look twice 
by John Fuller.
Chatto, 255 pp., £13.99, October 1991, 0 7011 3761 4
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... Brooke and Mr Causaubon, the Emperor in his non-existent new clothes and Calvino’s Non-Existent Knight. With those characters the reader already knows, Textermination offers the pleasures of both recognition and novelty: we see people we know in fresh contexts. The reader’s self-congratulation may be checked as he encounters characters beyond his ken, but ...

Dirty Linen

Patrick O’Brian, 4 August 1994

Mr Bligh’s Bad Language: Passion, Power and Theatre on the ‘Bounty’ 
by Greg Dening.
Canto, 445 pp., £7.95, April 1994, 0 521 46718 7
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Admiral Satan: The Life and Campaigns of Suffren 
by Roderick Cavaliero.
Tauris, 312 pp., £29.95, May 1994, 9781850436867
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... the younger sons were expected to provide for themselves. One way of doing this was to become a Knight of Malta: another was to join the Navy. Young Suffren did both, being admitted to the Order as an absentee minor when he was a child and at 14 going to the naval college before joining the Solide as a cadet and seeing some action in the confused battle off ...

Mercenary Knights and Princess Brides

Barbara Newman: Medieval Travel, 17 August 2017

The Medieval Invention of Travel 
by Shayne Aaron Legassie.
Chicago, 287 pp., £22, April 2017, 978 0 226 44662 2
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... of St Francis had taken a vow of poverty. At the Great Khan’s reception, he met some envoys from India who presented the ruler with eight leopards and ten greyhounds trained to ride horseback. William’s humble gifts of fruit and wine could scarcely compete. The Mongol court took more interest in his precious vestments and illuminated manuscripts, donated ...

A Piece of Single Blessedness

John Burrows, 21 January 1988

Jane Austen: Her Life 
by Park Honan.
Weidenfeld, 452 pp., £16.95, October 1987, 0 297 79217 2
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... other members of her family and her circle of acquaintance. Those of Eliza de Feuillide and Fanny Knight (and the latter’s diaries), to which Park Honan draws attention, are of particular interest; and others like them may yet be found. The discovery of the play Sir Charles Grandison, or The Happy Man, the work of Jane Austen and her niece Anna, suggests ...

Democratic Warming

Tom Nairn: The Upstaging of the G8, 4 August 2005

... not ‘won’ or ‘lost’ by either side – it was, he wrote, ‘a war in which the Black Knight, power, was challenged by the White Knight’ of a popular movement determined to have its say. Though not irrelevant, the violence of the jousts was never the real point. What counted was that part of the public which ...

Say what you will about Harold

Christopher Hitchens, 2 December 1993

Wilson: The Authorised Life 
by Philip Ziegler.
Weidenfeld, 593 pp., £20, September 1993, 0 297 81276 9
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... The photograph shows him next to the Duke of Grafton while assuming his stall at Windsor as a Knight of the Garter, and the action was the compiling (would that be the word?) of a resignation honours list that rewarded those who – oh, dash it, I don’t know – shall we say made money rather than earned it? Anyway, in the photograph Wilson looks like ...

White Peril

E.S. Turner: H. Rider Haggard, 20 September 2001

Diary of an African Journey (1914) 
by H. Rider Haggard.
Hurst, 345 pp., £20, August 2001, 1 85065 468 9
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... own epitaph, which was carved in black marble. It read: Here lie the Ashes of Henry Rider Haggard Knight Bachelor Knight of the British Empire Who with a Humble Heart Strove to Serve his Country Nothing there about his ripping yarns, the first of which had been hyped, in 1885, as ‘The Most Amazing Story Ever ...

The Cow Bells of Kitale

Patrick Collinson: The Selwyn Affair, 5 June 2003

... for the national anthem but had little idea what the colonial enterprise was about. After going to India to become a soldier, Geoffrey Selwyn had gone on to a farming apprenticeship in Uganda. The First World War took him to the Western Front. In his short, unpublished memoir, ‘Scenes from My Life’, he describes how, ‘thoroughly fed up with the mud of ...

Simply too exhausted

Christopher Hitchens, 25 July 1991

Edwina Mountbatten: A Life of Her Own 
by Janet Morgan.
HarperCollins, 509 pp., £20, July 1991, 0 00 217597 5
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... said Miss Postlethwaite, in answer to our concerned gaze, ‘but he’s just gone off to India, leaving her standing tight-lipped and dry-eyed in the moonlight outside the old Manor. And her little dog has crawled up and licked her hand, as if he understood and sympathised.’ P.G. Wodehouse, Best-Seller At half past nine that evening Edwina’s ...

At the Helm of the World

Pankaj Mishra: Alexander Herzen, 1 June 2017

The Discovery of Chance: The Life and Thought of Alexander Herzen 
by Aileen Kelly.
Harvard, 582 pp., £31.95, May 2016, 978 0 674 73711 2
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... The​ Soviet-subsidised mobile bookshops that enlivened my provincial childhood in the India of the late 1970s and early 1980s always had, in among the English translations of Marx, Lenin and various socialist realist novels, an edition of Alexander Herzen’s novel Who Is to Blame? The title was irresistible and its theme of stupor and futility in the provinces seemed both contemporary and urgent ...

Pushkin’s Pupil

Christopher Driver, 1 April 1983

by D.M. Thomas.
Gollancz, 191 pp., £6.95, February 1983, 0 575 03247 2
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... Pushkin, according to one critic, ‘could think and speak as a pagan, a Christian, a medieval knight, a Renaissance man, a votary of Voltaire and a disciple of Rousseau’. It is surely as his disciple that Thomas in these two books seeks to embrace in the same unifying vision both the characteristic horrors and the fresh starts of the 20th century: in ...

In Farageland

James Meek, 9 October 2014

... workers too many rights. It was the EU’s fault that British companies didn’t export more to India. European immigrants were to blame for the shortage of social housing. It wasn’t his natural audience. Clever teenagers, teachers, the entourages of rival politicians. Only soft drinks were on offer. He failed to sparkle. The vote at the end was won by ...

The Man in White

Edward Pearce, 11 October 1990

The Golden Warrior: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia 
by Lawrence James.
Weidenfeld, 404 pp., £19.50, August 1990, 0 297 81087 1
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... thought was given in London to a proposal that Iraq should be annexed, not by Britain, but by India acting as a sort of second-generation imperialist, and providing territory for Indians to settle and colonise. This was the high time or late tubercular flush of imperial thinking, the era of Rhodes and Milner as well as of Balfour, and the concept of an ...

Keep your eye on the tide, Jock

Tom Shippey: Naval history, 4 June 1998

The Safeguard of the Sea: A Naval History of Britain, Vol. I, 660-1649 
by N.A.M. Rodger.
HarperCollins, 691 pp., £25, September 1997, 0 00 255128 4
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Weapons and Warfare in Renaissance Europe 
by Bert Hall.
Johns Hopkins, 300 pp., £25, June 1997, 0 8018 5531 4
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... Getting the saltpetre was only the start, however; it was a long time before supply, largely from India, could match demand. You then had to prevent the mixed or mealed ingredients from absorbing water and failing to work (no easy business on campaign in Northern Europe), and to prevent early guns, with their forged barrels, from blowing up. The ...

Catching the Prester John Bug

John Mullan: Umberto Eco, 8 May 2003

by Umberto Eco, translated by William Weaver.
Secker, 522 pp., £18, October 2002, 0 436 27603 8
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... John’s day. It was widely believed that Prester John was indeed ruling Christians, probably in India, and intrepid travellers tried to seek him out. He began turning up in accounts of imaginary voyages, including Mandeville’s Travels. There are many medieval maps on which Prester John’s domain is confidently located. This has been Eco’s materia ...

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